Right-wing parties are using the issue of immigration to mobilize voters ahead of the next month’s EU election, the European socialists complain. “Political predators preying on migration crisis,” the socialist candidate for the EU’s top job, Frans Timmermans, told French TV network EuroNews.

Timmermans’ remarks come as most projections show big gains for the anti-EU nationalist parties at the cost of pro-establishment conservative and socialist blocs. The anti-EU right-wing parties are set to form the “largest group in the EU parliament,” recent official polls show. Dutch Socialist Timmermans, currently serving as the European Commission’s first vice-president, is hoping replace EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in the next legislative cycle.

The comments by the EU’s top socialist candidate highlight the vulnerability of the pro-establishment parties on the issue of immigration. Despite concerted effort by mainstream political parties and European media to suppress the debate on immigration, the nationalist parties across Europe have made the EU’s open borders policy the central issue in the upcoming election.

The EuroNews reported the statement made by Timmermans:

“The only thing is that now political predators are preying on the fact that people feel that we can’t get in control of this and playing identity politics, saying these people don’t belong here, they are a threat to us and we need to stand firm against that,” Timmermans continued.

“We need to remain a safe haven for real refugees but we also need to say to people who don’t have the right to asylum that they need to return to their places of origin,” he said.

Timmermans is among those hoping to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission after May’s elections.

France’s nationalist politician Marine Le Pen and Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini have joined forces to create a pan-European front of nationalist parties ahead of the election. The Alternative for Germany (AfD), True Finns (PS) and Danish People Party (DF) have so far joined the pre-election alliance.

The coalition wants to put an end to illegal immigration, ‘protect national culture,’ and stop the centralization of power in Brussels, media reports say. “To save Europe, you have to turn away from the European Union,” Le Pen said recently, while pledging to pull her country out of unfavorable trade agreements and defend national borders.

The issues of immigration and national sovereignty are resonating with voters. In France, Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN) is polling ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling en Marche.

Nigel Farage-led Brexit party is leading in the UK with 28 percent of the projected votes, 6 points ahead of the Labour party. Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives are now down to 13 percent—a staggering 15 percent behind the newly-formed Brexit party, latest YouGov polls show.

Most polls show the Alternative for Germany party trailing behind Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and left-wing Social Democrats. The AfD, however, is projected to emerge as the biggest party in former East German states.

The ruling elite in Brussels are terrified at the prospect of a unified anti-EU alliance. If the right-wing parties manage to get one-third of the seats in the European parliament, as some polls suggest, they would “paralyze decision-making at the center of the EU” and end up “curbing [Brussels’] liberal orientation and returning power to member states,” the pro-EU think tank European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) fears.

Refusing to deal with the burning issue of illegal immigration, the pro-EU parties are hoping to woo European voters with a symbolic “Green” agenda. Socialist Timmermans has promised a Europe-wide ‘CO2 tax’ and a ‘plastic legislation’ to ‘tackle climate change.’

Marine Le Pen: ‘To save Europe, you have to turn away from the EU.’

[Cover image via YouTube]

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